Buhari: Heavy Punishment Awaits Corrupt Public Servants

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•1,144 Convicted, Eight Aircrafts, Seven Filling Stations, 48 Real Estates, 149 Vehicles, Recovered in 11 Months, Says CJN

•Honours three Nigerians for integrity, exemplary conduct

Deji Elumoye and Alex Enumah in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has declared his readiness to mete out heavy punishments against public officers found wanting in the course of their duties.

This is just as he honoured three Nigerians with Public Service Integrity Awards for their integrity and exemplary conduct at work.

Also, as part of its efforts to reduce corruption in the country, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad has disclosed that the judiciary has secured the conviction of 1,144 suspects and went ahead to recover properties worth billions of naira in the last 11 months.

The president and the CJN spoke yesterday at the third national summit on, “Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector,” held in Abuja.

The president said his administration would sanction those who bring in personnel into the public workforce through illegal recruitment, pad their payroll and retain ghost workers.

Buhari warned that his administration would not hesitate to punish heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that fraudulently present new projects as ongoing projects in the budget.

According to him, “we reduced the cost of governance by maintaining our promise to complete abandoned or ongoing projects commenced by previous administrations and have ensured that MDAs do not put forward new capital projects at the expense of ongoing projects.

“Government has, however, noted from the activities of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that some MDAs have devised the fraudulent practice of presenting new projects as ongoing projects.

“Necessary action and sanctions will continue against the heads of such errant MDAs. I am confident that ICPC will continue to maintain the vigilance required of her by the ICPC Act in this regard.”

He expressed delight that the legislative and judicial arms of government were also under focus on managing the cost of governance, saying government remains a collective and not the business of the executive branch alone.

The president added that: “On 19th August 2020, the Federal Executive Council adopted the National Ethics and Integrity Policy which I launched on 25th September 2020.

“I am delighted that some public officers continue not only to demonstrate the core values of ethics, integrity and patriotism but have been identified for their sterling anti-corruption disposition in their workplace.”

The highpoint of the summit attended by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad and a representative of the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, was the presentation of the 2021 Public Service Integrity Awards to three distinguished Nigerians.

They were Deputy Director, Legal, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Nelson Okoronkwo; Assistant Commander of Narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Muhammad Ahmad, and Ikenna Nweke, a PhD student, from Imo State, studying in Japan.

Okoronkwo, who was recognised for his consistent acts of integrity in the different ministries where he served, is a committee member on fertilizer distribution that led to the recovery of billions of naira from racketeers with collaborators within the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

He was credited to have reported corrupt practices that led to the Ogoni clean-up investigation in the Federal Ministry Environment.

As Committee Chairman on Illegal Recruitment in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the Deputy Director facilitated the detection and removal of over 3000 fake employers from the service thereby saving the government millions of naira in terms of salaries and emoluments.

The NDLEA officer, Ahmad, was recognised for demonstrating the highest ideals and standards of the public service in the discharge of his responsibilities.

Also a recipient of the Chairman/Chief Executive Award for Outstanding Performance and Integrity, Ahmad recently recovered and declared to his Agency the sum of 24,500 USD offered to him as bribe by a drug baron to compromise an investigation of 27.950 kg of cocaine, worth billions of naira

On his part, Nweke, the Nigerian PhD student in Japan who found a wallet containing a very large amount of money and other valuables returned it to the Japanese police and declined 10 per cent of the money offered to him as a reward.

The Nigerian, who joined the event virtually from his base in Japan, was recognised for his act of ‘‘honesty and integrity,’’ by the President.

On Nweke, President Buhari said: ‘‘I am also happy to note the ICPC special award to Ikenna Steve Nweke, a Nigerian Ph.D student from Imo State studying in Japan.

1,144 Convicted, Eight Aircraft, Seven Filling Stations Recovered in 11 Months, Says CJN

Meanwhile, the CJN revealed that the judiciary has secured the conviction of 1,144 suspects and went ahead to recover properties worth billions of naira in the last 11 months.

According to Justice Muhammad, the Nigerian judiciary has been in the forefront in the fight against graft, haven put in place a robust mechanism of introspecting periodically to do a self-assessment to see those areas where corruption could surreptitiously creep into the system and quickly nip it in the bud from the outset.

He said, “The National Judicial Council has been carrying out regular disciplinary actions against erring judicial officers to effectively tame the monster within the system. It is not a hidden fact that for any nation to prosper and make meaningful progress, the judiciary must be firm, independent and insulated from any extraneous interference and orchestrated influence, either monetarily or otherwise.

“Worried by the delays associated with the trial of criminal cases by our courts, particularly those relating to corruption and financial crimes, we decided to set up the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) in 2018, with Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, as Chairman.

“The sole aim of this Committee is to fast-track the trial of corruption and financial related crimes in the country; and it has since been working assiduously with various heads of courts, to bring about a significant rise in the dispensation of corruption and financial crime cases in the country. Even with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in virtually the whole of 2020 and a better part of 2021, a total number of 746 corruption cases were dispensed with.

“Similarly, the number of forfeited non-cash recoveries made, include 51 Automobiles, 16 Real Estates, 11 Barge/Tug Boats and 2 Schools. Between second January and 14th November, 2021, a total number of 1,144 suspects were convicted of various corruption and financial related crimes, while the number of non-cash forfeited assets has also risen to include: eight aircraft, seven filling stations, 48 real estates and 149 Vehicles, amongst others. Similarly, various cash forfeiture were made in hundreds of millions of Naira.

“We shall not rest on our oars until every trace of corruption and undue exercise of influence to negatively secure unmerited advantage over others is stamped out of our clime.”